Climate action pips education as priority in university survey

An SDG report presented to the UN reveals slightly more universities are prioritising climate action over education next year

Universities will prioritise climate action next year, a new global report suggests.

The SGD Accord reports on how universities around the world are responding to the UN sustainable development goals (SDG).

Of the 17 goals, HEIs put climate action as a strategic priority, ahead of quality education, gender equality and good health and well-being.

Every Friday we see this new consciousness rising, as young people demand action and call on governments, companies and institutions to move faster to address the climate emergency – Sam Barratt

72% of universities said responding to the climate crisis was one of their top strategic goals next year, compared to 70% of HEIs who put quality education.

Sam Barratt, UN Environment’s chief of education and youth, said he thought student strikes and protests have driven the issue up the agenda.

“The take away from the survey of 110 institutions is that they are already embracing their role in educating and supporting this new generation of leaders.

“Every Friday we see this new consciousness rising, as young people demand action and call on governments, companies and institutions to move faster to address the climate emergency.”

The SGD Accord report, Progress towards the Global Goals in the University and College Sector, was presented to the UN and collected data from 110 institutions based in more than 80 countries around the world.

The report’s findings are hindered by its international uptake. 61 of the universities that report to the SDG Accord are based in Europe, compared to just two in North America.

Bournemouth University was used as a case study in the report – the university estimates it has cut carbon emissions by 36% in 14 years.

Universities said the biggest obstacles to achieving the UN’s goals were a lack of staff capacity, funding, and a limited institutional understanding of the SDGs.


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